One Afghani mini-cab driver said in Time Out this week that what surprised him the most when he arrived in London was that “so many people here aren’t white.
“I thought that all the men going to work would have the round hat and a stick. (Londoners) have learnt certain attitudes, that have a certain confidence that is partly about having learnt the language, but also the result of mixing so many people from different backgrounds… In a way, you could say that being a Londoner is a state of mind.”
On the 10th of August, we’d been here two years. What has living in London done to the state of my mind, I wonder? Why do I keep wanting to take photos of people on the Tube, like this?
I think, just like this Afghani mini-cab driver, I can sense a separateness from myself and the average Londoner, as if there is such a thing. I think, just like him, I am fooled into thinking that “Londoners” exist. Sure, there are kids who live here and grow up here. People are from here. Some people stay here. But just like any city, London has more than its fair share of people just like him, just like me: outsiders who “live here now.” Estonian? Afghani? Nigerian? Italian? Canadian? Bangadeshi? Chinese? Iowan? When we all land in London, we are all different, and we are all the same.
It’s easier, when you are alone and cut off and far from home, to think that your experiences are somehow harder, meaner, colder than anyone elses. “Jobs are scarce, people are closed-off.” For some reason, it’s easier to see the differences and to blame them, than to work within the language of similarity. I don’t know why.
Our lives are inconvenienced, lately, by fear and threats. Life is getting shaken up and we are being forced to do things differently.
But we said yes to forcing others to change their lives. Why should we not be expected to reciprocate?